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Nekisia Davis' Olive Oil and Maple Granola

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Every week, Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The sweet-savory granola that's setting a new bar.


- Kristen

Nekisia Davis was working 60 hours a week managing franny's, the famous pizzeria in Brooklyn, when she started baking, bagging and selling her own granola at local markets like the Brooklyn Flea. Her southern grandmother had to first talk her out of the name "Neki's Nookie".

"Looking back," Davis says, "My grandmother was right." The new name Early Bird Foods, inspired by an old fruit crate label, suited her better. Three years later, she has a team of 10 and her granola is sold in 17 states.

Nekisia Davis  early bird granola

As granolas go, hers is like muesli after a vampy makeover. Olive oil, maple, brown sugar and salt form a rich, shaggy crust on wholesome innards, like the oats, pecans, coconut shards, and various seeds in her best-selling style Farmhand's Choice (see recipe below).

It leans sweet, but olive oil fills out the savory undergirding in a way vegetable oil (the granola standard and a total wallflower) never could, and the salt keeps it from cloying.

granola ingredients

Making it at home requires pretty much only stirring. Oats and whatnot go in a bowl (stir), then go into the oven (stir, stir, stir). Granola! At 300 degrees for 45 minutes, you get absolutely no clumping or burning, and the nuts and things slowly bake up to a toasty crackle. FOOD52er vvvanessa (who inspired me to try it) says, "It's the only granola recipe I ever bother with anymore."

granola  granola  granola

From the Flea, both Davis' products and her method quickly garnered fans in high places. Martha Stewart was one of the first. Then Melissa Clark. Then Daniel Humm, who not only told GQ it was one of his favorite things, but also began producing a version of Davis' recipe in the kitchen of Eleven Madison Park to distribute en masse.

Other overachieving restaurants will offer a parting gift of a perfect bundle of truffles or pâtes de fruit, but Humm (a chef known for his sea urchin cappuccino, suckling pig tasting menu, and 3 Michelin stars) sends every diner home with a jar of low-tech granola smattered with pistachios and dried sour cherries, very much like Early Bird's Jubilee.

It's a rare moment of homespun joy in a night of impossible excess -- and a testament to the bar that Davis' recipe has raised.


Nekisia Davis' Olive Oil and Maple Granola

Adapted very slightly from Early Bird Foods' Farmhand's Choice Granola

Makes about 7 cups

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 1/4 cup raw pecan halves, left whole or coarsely chopped
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
Coarse salt

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Want more genius? Try Roy Finamore's Broccoli Cooked Forever

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].


Photos by James Ransom (except second row, courtesy of Early Bird Foods)

dirty dishes

Pick up some of Early Bird's other goodies like Choc-a-Doodle Doo -- coconut! chocolate? granola! -- and Crack of Dawn B-bars, topped with Maldon sea salt, here.

Tags: Editors' Picks, Genius Recipes